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News Now
  • Obama from Oval Office: Terrorism
  • Obama: GOPers slam speech
  • Who was Tashfeen Mailk?
  • 2016ers and pols: Terrorism
  • Israel as “Binational state?” Kerry uproar
  • Justice to launch probe: Chicago PD
 
Obama from Oval Office: Terrorism (NYT, WaPo, WaPo, Reuters, WSJ, me)
• In only his third Oval Office address, and speaking from a lectern and not seated behind the desk, President Obama sought on Sunday to calm jittery Americans after the terrorist attack last week in California, delivering a prime-time address designed to underscore the govt’s campaign against an evolving threat
 
• “It is clear that the two of them had gone down the dark path of radicalization,” Obama said, referring to Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik. “so this was an act of terrorism designed to kill innocent people.” The act appeared to be inspired, but not directed, by members of ISIS
 
• Obama promised an intensification of airstrikes against ISIS and said that a growing coalition of nations and an increasingly sophisticated effort to capture and kill the group’s leaders would yield significant results. But the speech wasn’t intended to announce a dramatic shift in strategy or policies
 
• Instead it was meant to inform Americans of the admin’s efforts against ISIS and to urge people not to give in to fear or language that casts suspicion on all Muslims and mosques (going to be a near riot at the WH press briefing today because no new policies were announced – must-see TV)

• Interactive: What investigators know about the San Bernardino attack (NYT)

 

• “We cannot turn against one another by letting this fight be defined as a war between America and Islam,” Obama said, adding, “That does not mean denying the fact that an extremist ideology has spread within some Muslim communities. This is a real problem that Muslims must confront, without excuse.” (he’ll be hammered for not saying “radical Islamist terrorism”
 
• Obama’s demeanor was serious but not grim or angry as he outlined a series of steps at home aimed at keeping the country safe. He called for tougher screening of travelers who come to the U.S. without visas and asked Congress to ban gun sales to people on the govt’s no-fly list, and for limits on assault weapons
 
• “I know there are some who reject any gun safety measures,” Obama said. “But the fact is that our intelligence and law enforcement agencies – no matter how effective they are – cannot identify every would-be mass shooter, whether that individual is motivated by ISIL or some other hateful ideology. What we can do – and must do – is make it hard for them to kill.”
 
• Obama misspoke when he said Malik came to the U.S. under the visa waiver program. She came to the U.S. on a K-1 visa, known as a fiance visa, when she moved to the U.S. to marry Farook. The WH has acknowledged the error (how that mistake got through all the vetting is bizarre – I spotted it as I watched – of course Pakistan isn’t part of it)
 
• “The threat from terrorism is real,” Obama said. “But we will overcome it. Our success won’t depend on tough talk or abandoning our values or giving in to fear.” Instead, Obama pledged to be steadfast and stick with his current plan (ref to tough talk and giving in to fear was a slam at GOP 2016ers)

• Watch: President Obama address the nation from the Oval Office on keeping the nation safe after the terrorist attack in San Bernardino last week (WH)

 

• “It is our responsibility to reject religious tests on who we admit into this country,” Obama said. “It’s our responsibility to reject proposals that Muslim-Americans should somehow be treated differently. Because when we travel down that road, we lose.” (another slam on GOP 2016ers)
 
• “We should not be drawn once more into a long and costly ground war in Iraq or Syria,” Obama said. “That’s what groups like ISIL want. But they also know that if we occupy foreign lands, they can maintain insurgencies for years, killing thousands of our troops, draining our resources, and using our presence to draw new recruits.” (he needed to better explain why they want this)
 
• “The terrorist threat has evolved into a new phase,” Obama said. “As we’ve become better at preventing complex multifaceted attacks like 9/11, terrorists turn to less complicated acts of violence like the mass shootings that are all too common in our society.”
 
• Obama has relied since the summer of 2014 on a combination of airstrikes, financial sanctions and targeted special operations to counter the growth of ISIS, while building a diplomatic coalition of dozens of nations and resisting any call for the reintroduction of large numbers of American ground troops (didn’t blow his own horn enough on what they’ve done)
 
• But despite thousands of airstrikes since then, ISIS militants continue to occupy large areas of land in the region. A sophisticated social media campaign by the terror group has succeeded in helping recruit believers across the globe, including officials say, in the U.S. (and U.S. really has no clue how to counter it – or the philosophy – and can’t win until it does)

• “End the gun epidemic in America” – NYT, in its first front-page editorial in nearly 100 years, on Saturday said: “It is a moral outrage and national disgrace that civilians can legally purchase weapons designed to kill people with brutal speed and efficiency.”

 

• In an effort to limit gun sales in the U.S., Obama’s staff is working on a proposal that would expand the definition of a “high-volume gun dealer” so more purchases would be subject to background checks. But aides say that proposal would face legal, practical and political challenges. An announcement is said to be at least a month away
 
• “We cannot turn against one another by letting this fight be defined as a war between America and Islam. That, too, is what groups like ISL want,” Obama said. “ISIL does not speak for Islam. They are thugs and killers, part of a cult of death.” (cult of death and apocalypse needs to be explained – but it’s complex – media could help, but can’t be bothered)
 
• The death toll from jihadist terrorism in the U.S. since 9/11 – 45 people – is about the same as the 48 killed in terrorist attacks motivated by white supremacist and other right-wing extremist ideologies, according to New America, a research organization in Washington. Both tolls are a small fraction of the number of conventional murders, more than 200,000 in the same period
 
• Now the pressure is on Obama to escalate a war that he had hoped to end. His response has been to appeal to Americans’ inner strength. “Let’s not forget what makes us exceptional,” Obama said. “Let’s not forget that freedom is more powerful than fear.” (is it – in the short term – which is what we’re dealing with now?)
 
Obama: GOPers Slam Speech (Politico, WaPo, NYT, AP, me)
• In a statement, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis) said, “Until we hear from the president what more can be done – with our military, our intelligence-gathering, and our international partners – we will remain one step behind our enemy. This is not just the next president’s problem. It is our problem, and we must confront it today.”
 
• Donald Trump, the leading GOP 2016er, posted on Twitter: “That all there is? We need a new President – FAST!”
 
• Sen Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a 2016er, said: “It is time for a dramatic shift in both foreign and national security policy. The recent attacks in Paris and San Bernardino have further confirmed that radical Islamic terrorists are at war with the West.”

&&&


 
• Former Gov Job Bush (R-Fla), a 2016er, said “Obama has finally been forced to abandon the political fantasy he has perpetuated for years that the threat of terrorism was receding.”
 
• “Nothing that happened in the speech tonight is going to assuage people’s fears,” Sen Marco Rubio (R-Fla), a 2016er, said on Fox News
 
• “President Obama’s address tonight failed to obscure what has become increasingly clear to the American people: that we are not winning the war against ISIL, and that the threat of terrorism against our homeland is real and growing,” said Sen John McCain (R-Ariz) in a lengthy statement emailed to reporters just minutes after President Obama’s speech
 

• “You ain’t no Muslim, bruv!” yells a man at the perpetrator of a knife attack in Leytonstone tube (metro) station in London. The man had shouted “This is for Syria!” Others yell: “Put the knife down, fool!” and throw bottles. Police taser and arrest him. #YouAintNoMuslimBruv trended worldwide in solidarity on Twitter. Three people were wounded. Love the London reax

 
Who Was Tashfeen Malik? (NYT, AP, LAT, me)
• Tashfeen Malik, the woman accused by law enforcement officials of killing 14 people and injuring 21 others at a California conference center alongside her husband on Wed, remains largely a mystery to both investigators and her relatives in Pakistan, who have responded to her actions with shock and horror
 
• Officials said Malik pledged allegiance to ISIS in a Facebook post on the day of the attack, but they cautioned that there was no evidence that the terrorist group had directed the rampage. There was little info about Malik’s past or her path to radicalization
 
• Relatives in Pakistan described Malik, 29, as a bright and religious young woman. “All relatives here are shocked to hear about it,” said Javed Rabbani Aulakh, an uncle of Malik’s in Pakistan
 
• Malik moved to Saudi Arabia with her father when she was young, her relatives told reporters, after an inheritance dispute between her father and their extended family led to a bitter falling out. Relatives believed it was there that both father and daughter developed radical political and religious beliefs

 

• The father of Syed Rizwan Farook says his son had expressed some troubling beliefs. “He said he shared the ideology of al-Baghdadi to create an Islamic state, and he was fixated on Israel,” the elder Farook said, referring to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (CNN)
 
Tashfeen Malik: Radicalization?
• However, a spox for the Saudi Interior Ministry said by text on Saturday that Tashfeen Malik didn’t live in Saudi Arabia but twice came to visit her father, who works there, in 2008 and 2013. Unclear why the discrepancy between the accounts
 
• Malik returned to Pakistan in 2007 to pursue a degree in pharmacology. Nisar Hussain, one of Malik’s professors, said she had been a gifted student who was once at the top of her class. “She was religious, but a very normal person as well.” He said he did not believe Malik “had any kind of mental illness.” (you don’t have to be mentally ill to be a terrorist – sorry, it’s true)
 
• One relative, who spoke to LAT anonymously, said that Malik’s religious beliefs seemed to change during her time at the university and that relatives sometimes worried about her radical postings on social media. Malik also began to talk online with friends in Arabic, a language that her family members in Pakistan didn’t understand
 
• Malik left school in 2012 and moved to the U.S. two years later after she met Syed Rizwan Farook on a dating website. An aunt in Pakistan said, “I recently heard it from relatives that she has become a religious person, and she often tells people to live according to the teachings of Islam.” She had begun to dress very conservatively
 
• It’s rare for husband-wife pairs to team up in violence. Even sophisticated electronic surveillance can fail to pick up a plot hatched by a couple who spend hours communicating face to face in the privacy of their home. “They don’t need to leave the house. They don’t even need to leave the bed,” said Max Abrahams, a terrorism expert at Northeastern University
 
2016ers and Pols: Terrorism (NYT, Politico, Hill, Hill, me)
• “I believe that the sister of the killer, I watched her interview, I think she knew what was going on,” Donald Trump told reporters in Iowa on Saturday. “I think his mother knew what was going on.” “She went in the apartment,” he said, which authorities said contained thousands of rounds of ammunition, 12 pipe bombs and materials to make IEDs (he has no facts – fear-mongering)
 
• Rep Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, said on Fox News Sunday that there were “no red flags” that the shooters posed a threat. “We didn’t see this one coming.” “We’ve stopped a lot of bad things from happening … but you just can’t stop it all,” McCaul said (interesting that GOP chair saying this)
 
• “These are everyday Americans who have nothing to do with terrorism – they wind up on the no-fly list,” Sen Marco Rubio (R-Fla) said on CNN on Sunday. “There’s no due process, or any way to get removed from it in a timely fashion, and now they’re having their Second Amendment rights being impeded upon.” (truth to this – but confusion about numbers on the list)
 
• “We’re not winning
[against ISIS] but it’s too soon to say that we are doing everything we need to do,” Hillary Clinton said on ABC on Sunday. “We have to fight them in the air. We have to fight them on ground and we have to fight on the internet. (is she Churchill now?) And we have to do everything we can with our friends and partners around the world to protect ourselves.”

 

• Jimmy Carter’s grandson said Sunday that no cancer was detected the last time the former president underwent a scan. In August, Carter, 91, announced that he had been diagnosed with melanoma that spread to his brain. Carter received targeted radiation and doses of Keytruda, a newly approved auto-immune drug (Hill)
 
Israel as “Binational State?” Kerry Uproar (AP, me)
• SecState John Kerry set off an uproar in Israel on Sunday after warning that the country, through its continued West Bank occupation, will become a “binational state.” (Happy Hanukkah to you, too, John)
 
• Kerry’s words describe a scenario that would mark a failure of U.S. policy and end to Israel’s existence as a country that’s both Jewish and democratic. U.S., the international community and many Israelis have endorsed the “two-state solution” – establishing a Palestinian state and ending Israel’s control over millions of Palestinians in territories occupied in the 1967 war
 
• PM Benjamin Netanyahu declared Sunday that “Israel will not be a binational state” (fuming) and blamed the Palestinians for the failure of peace efforts. But despite Netanyahu’s pledges, Jewish settlement of the West Bank continues apace, while confusion over his true intentions grows by the day
 
• Meanwhile, Israel seems unable to stem a wave of stabbings and other attacks by Palestinian individuals, now in its third month, that has killed 19 Israelis and left 100 Palestinians, most said by Israel to be attackers, dead
 
• This situation has sharpened the country’s half-century-old debate over the Palestinians. “If Israel were the Titanic and the binational apartheid state its iceberg … then the collision with the iceberg has already occurred,” wrote columnist Roger Alpher in Haaretz. “Without a diplomatic solution, we will continue to slowly sink into an existence of knifings, hatred and fear.”

 

• The U.S. created 211,000 new jobs in November and the unemployment rate stayed at 5%, making it all but certain the Federal Reserve will begin raising interest rates later this month
 
Justice to Launch Probe: Chicago PD (WaPo, NYT, me)
• The Justice Dept plans to begin a far-ranging investigation into the patterns and practices of the Chicago Police Dept, similar to those that scrutinized the PDs in Ferguson and Baltimore. The civil probe could be announced early this week
 
• Chicago continues to grapple with protests after the release of a video showing the police shooting of Laquan McDonald, 17, which prompted murder charges for the officer involved and the resignation of the city’s police chief, Garry McCarthy. DoJ is investigating the shooting, but this new probe by the dept’s civil rights division would focus on possible civil rights violations
 
• Mayor Rahm Emanuel has come under fire for his admin’s handling of the McDonald video, specifically for fighting its release for more than a year, which some have suggested was a politically motivated decision meant to insulate the mayor from political backlash (ya think?) while he was locked in a tight reelection fight. He fired the police chief a week after its release
 
• On the same day that McCarthy was fired, Illinois AG Lisa Madigan wrote to the DoJ urging them to open an investigation into the police dept. Critics have raised numerous questions, including: Did Emanuel’s re-election fight play a role in his admin’s decision this year to pay $5 million to McDonald’s family members even before they filed a lawsuit?
 
•  Why did City Hall include a provision in the settlement to keep the video private at least temporarily? And why did it take Anita Alvarez, Cook County State’s Attorney, 13 months to charge the police officer? She waited until just hours before the city was forced to reveal the video to charge officer Jason Van Dyke with first degree murder

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